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Congressman blasts Obama’s Defense Department for blocking Marine colonel from appearing before Congress as key witness in Benghazi probe

6 min read

By  David Martosko In Washington

PUBLISHED: 14:01 EST, 9 July  2013 |  UPDATED: 20:06  EST, 9 July 2013

Have you seen this man? U.S. Marine Corps Col. George Bristol commanded the Special Operations units in Northern Africa when terrorists attacked American diplomatic posts in Benghazi, Libya 

Have you seen this man? U.S. Marine Corps Col. George  Bristol, who is believed to have retired in March, commanded the Special  Operations units in Northern Africa when terrorists attacked American diplomatic  posts in Benghazi, Libya

A key witness to the military’s response  after the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya  hasn’t appeared before Congress to testify about what he knows.

And Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who  sits on the powerful House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, is losing  his patience with the Pentagon.

The Obama Administration’s Defense Department  has so far declined to tell the committee anything about Col. George Bristol’s  whereabouts, despite his position until March of this year as commander of Joint  Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.

‘The Department of Defense is not willing to  pass along any sort of information,’ Rep.  Chaffetz told MailOnline. ‘That’s  unbelievably frustrating.’

Bristol’s former unit, which operates under  United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), played a key role in what unfolded as  armed terrorists executed a military attack on the Benghazi diplomatic post,  killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

 

‘We know he was in the chain of command that  evening,’ Chaffetz explained. ‘We want to know what his position was. And we  will find out.’

Meanwhile, the Utah congressman is critical  of the Pentagon for refusing to provide access to Bristol, or tell Congress  where to find him.

Looking for answers: Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz wants to interview Bristol, but the Pentagon 'is choosing to not be helpful, he said'General Carter F. Ham, former commander of the U.S. military's Africa Command, testified before Congress in June about Benghazi

Looking for answers: Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz  (L) wants to interview Bristol, but the Pentagon claims it isn’t required to  furnish the whereabouts of retired officers. But General Carter Ham (R), the  retired former commander of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, was served up to  Congress by the Dept. of Defense

 

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in flames during the military-style attack by terrorists in Sept. 2012. Congress continues to look for answers 

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in flames  during the military-style attack by terrorists in Sept. 2012. Congress continues  to look for answers, despite the Obama administration’s unwillingness to  cooperate

 

‘It’s obvious to us that the Pentagon is  choosing to not be helpful,’ said Chaffetz.

‘In general, they have probably been more  helpful on Benghazi than other agencies, but with Col. Bristol, this is somehow  different.’

Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman,  told CBS News on July 5 that the Department of Defense ‘cannot compel retired  members to testify before Congress.’

Chaffetz called that assertion  ‘Hogwash.’

‘General Ham is retired,’ he said, ‘and they  made him available.’

Army Gen. Carter Ham was in command  of  AFRICOM until April 2013, and was Col. Bristol’s superior on the day  terrorists, including many affiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked group  Ansar  al-Sharia, bombarded the State Department’s Benghazi outposts.

Ham testified on June 26 in a closed session  before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and  Investigations.

Stonewalling? The Pentagon refuses to provide information about where Col. Bristol can be found, even as congressional Republicans ask for answers and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is now the Defense Secretary

 

Stonewalling? The Pentagon refuses to provide  information about where Col. Bristol can be found, even as congressional  Republicans ask for answers and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is now the  Defense Secretary

Chaffetz said he and other oversight  committee Republicans are still attempting to track down everyone – both  military and civilian – who can supply crucial pieces of the Benghazi  puzzle.

Questions remain unanswered about why Special  Operations soldiers were prevented from boarding a military plane in Tripoli  during the attack – a plane that was already preparing to take off for Benghazi.

Other questions focus on the degree to which  the State and Justice Departments may have waited too long to act in the  attack’s aftermath, missing opportunities to find answers or collect evidence.

The FBI didn’t arrive on the scene in  Benghazi until approximately three weeks had gone by, citing remaining security  concerns in the Mediterranean coastal city.

‘You can’t do a thorough investigation  without talking to everyone who knows something or saw something,’ Chaffetz  said. ‘Absolutely everyone.’

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed by militants who attacked the diplomatic compound in the Mediterranean coastal town of Benghazi 

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three  other U.S. personnel were killed by militants who attacked the diplomatic  compound in the Mediterranean coastal town of Benghazi

 

And that, he said, includes the State  Department employees who worked in or around the consulate compound. More than  two dozen of them are believed to be either in military hospitals or under  Pentagon protection. As with Col. Bristol, the Department of Defense has not  provided Congress with any access to them.

‘I think we have a better idea of who they  are, and we know where some of them are,’ Chaffetz told MailOnline, comparing  the depth of Congress’ information with what it knew during the months following  the Benghazi attack.

‘But we’re no closer to getting interviews  with them. It will happen, but the State Department is just being incredibly  unhelpful.’

President Obama told reporters on May 1 that  he was unaware of any Benghazi survivors who had been prohibited from speaking  to congressional investigators, and he pledged to find out more.

‘I’m not familiar with this notion that  anybody has been blocked from testifying,’ the president said during a news  conference, in response to a direct question about the situation.

‘So what I’ll do is, I will find out what  exactly you’re referring to,’ Obama promised. The White House hasn’t commented  publicly on the matter since then.

Not just Benghazi: Protesters destroyed an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo on the same day the Benghazi consulate fell 

Not just Benghazi: Protesters destroyed an American flag  pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo on the same day the Benghazi  consulate fell

The State Department has pushed back against  claims that any of its career employees have been threatened with retaliation if  they provide members of Congress with new details about the Benghazi  attack.

‘The State Department is deeply committed to  meeting its obligation to protect employees,’ a spokesman told reporters during  a May 1 briefing, ‘and the State Department would never tolerate – tolerate or  sanction – retaliation against whistle-blowers on any issue, including this  one.’

Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon  responded to phone calls seeking comment. The Pentagon also did not reply to a  request for information about Col. Bristol’s whereabouts.

A Libyan man told the Associated Press that bloodstains outside the Benghazi consulate were from an American staff member who grabbed the edge of the column while he was evacuated 

A Libyan man told the Associated Press that bloodstains  outside the Benghazi consulate were from an American staff member who grabbed  the edge of the column while he was evacuated

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2358972/Congressman-frustrated-hunting-Marine-colonel-Benghazi-chain-command-The-Pentagon-willing-share-sort-information.html#ixzz2YczJ8gSJ Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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